I really have to admire anyone who can crank out a book in a matter of months. I have been working on mine for almost two years and it has turned into the biggest project I have undertaken since my PhD thesis. Actually in comparison, it took me about 2 months to write the dissertation after 4 years of working on the thesis.
I am a slow writer and I am a fast writer. Let me tell you how it works. I almost never do draft revisions. I have worked together with people who did up to 20 revisions of their initial draft and who could write a journal article in a day. Conversely, I can spend a day just writing two paragraphs. On the upside, the only revisions I have to do is perhaps changing a word or two or move a couple of sentences around. I am writing the book the same way.
Blog posts I write more like emails. If I’m inspired, I can crank out a post in about half an hour. I write most my posts like that. Conversely, I know bloggers who spend up to three hours a day working on posts. On the flipside of this, if I have to write a post about something specific, I will be as slow as when I am writing for a publication.
Of course publication writing is in my opinion much more polished than my “email-style” writing. I sincerely hope I am not the only one who can tell the difference. I have however had people complain why it takes me so long to write a paper, while of course I at the same time have complained why we need 10+ revisions of the initial draft. It is a matter of style.
Anyway back to the book. This book has taken on a life on its own. One of the initial goal was to make it cohesive. I don’t know whether it is a physicist thing or an INTJ thing, but that meant to me that I had to create a “Theory of personal finance” and also that I had to fill out all the holes that normal blog writing produces. It is primarily a conceptual book which combines philosophy, management, operational techniques, ecology, economics, sociology, and of course about 45000 words or so corresponding to the 21 day challenge (formerly known as the 30 day challenge). It is heavily integrated. For example, it currently contains 392 cross references on 217 pages. Yeah, there will be lots of flipping around and you’d probably extract even more value, I hope, by rereading the book, and then reading it again, … and again 🙂
My philosophy is that you become what you are, so if you want to become something different, you have to change what you are. More than half the book is dedicated to essentially how to think and solve problems. It is not a how-to book, which I believe would have been much easier to write, rather in that sense that part is more of a management book akin to The Fifth Discipline. One of the biggest challenges has, therefore, been to formalize exactly how I think so I can explain it. In other words, I have had to put something complex into a linear stream of words. This has proven difficult.
The usual approach when writing non-fiction is to provide an outline and a couple of sample chapters. I quickly realized that I could not do that. When I started the project I wrote out about 10 pages of heavily convoluted mind maps to see how I could linearize a complex idea most easily. I hope I don’t sound conceited but explaining a complex subject so that non-experts can understand it is something I do really well—for shorter articles, albeit not for the book I even write in something close to E-prime which makes the text very easy to read. Using mind maps is my primary tool. I had never used mind maps stretching over 10 chapters (now 8 ) before and I quickly found they were changing every other week. Some of the sections I have now have lived in three different chapters at any one time. I thus decided to avoid convention and instead write the entire book before submitting the proposal. I think that was a good idea because 1) The book looks nothing like it did in the first stages and 2) There was no way I could have finished it in 6 months.
Anyway, currently, I am working on chapter 7 which is the last chapter except for the conclusion (which I hope will be comparably the easiest chapter to write). Once this is done I only have a few figures to make and a few unwritten sections. In comparable material, I have what corresponds to about 8 largish journal papers. This is a normal output for a researcher over two years.
Of course one thing you may have noticed is that posting on ERE has slowed down recently (while I have been finalizing that pesky chapter 6). To me, writing is like exercising rather than working. It is a high intensity workout rather than a slow grind. If I do one, I have no energy for the other if it involves more or less the same parts of the brain. Obviously, I should have done the business like thing and hired staff writers to fill in for me, but I didn’t. Oh well, … I hope the final result will make up for it.
Short carnival: The Curse Of Making Too Much And Not Pursuing Your Dreams @ Financial Samurai, Yakezei Challenge Carnival @ Deliver Away Debt, & A Different Perspective on Pricing @ Eliminate the Muda